The Numbers Behind the Numbers

This week’s big news was that the US economy lost the fewest jobs in a month since the beginning of the recession. There were reams and reams of news and opinion on the matter. Quotes from the White House, Republicans, Democrats, Wall Street and Economists. But I got stuck on the third paragraph of the first news item that I read on the matter on NYT

In the best report since the recession began two years ago, only 11,000 jobs disappeared last month, the government said on Friday, and the unemployment rate actually dipped, to 10 percent, from 10.2 percent the previous month.

What’s the math that allows the unemployment to go down when 11,000 jobs were lost? Did the denominator suddenly go up? Did all the returning Indians suddenly decide to go back to the US like Shiva Ayyadurai?

The answer seems to be

Not only did the rate of job losses drop to 11,000 but losses in the previous two months were revised down by 159,000.

which is not really offered as an explanation but as an aside by FT. But the numbers look like they should be able to explain the drop in unemployment. Does anybody have the official explanation?

Economics by its nature is complex. Good reporting should make it more accessible. Not leaving obvious questions unanswered would be a start.

1 Comment

  1. Siddharth says:

    Basab, corrected data should also change last months % unemployment. compared to last month, higher new employment along with lower unemployment gave way to reduced % unemployment.


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